Product ReviewsBASIC COMMANDER
MMG Micro Software
P.O. Box 131
Marlboro, NJ 07746
Reviewed by Roy D. Wolford
Serious Atari BASIC programmers will love this powerful programming tool. BASIC Commander combines many programming aids that are generally found only as separate programs. This diskette provides the following features: an automatic line-numbering generator, a renumbering program, a block delete program, seven programmed keys, three programmable keys, six DOS function keys and a "help" file. The only catch is that this program uses 7.4K of memory, a small price to pay for the benefits derived.
To load the program, turn on your disk drive, insert the diskette, plug in the BASIC cartridge, and turn on the computer. BASIC Commander will load in about 22 seconds. Remove BASIC Commander, insert your program diskette, and you are ready to go.
The automatic line-number generator assigns and enters line numbers for you at increments you choose, within the range of 1 to 32767. The default values are 10 (starting line numbers) and 10 (increment). After choosing your values, press [RETURN] and the first line number is displayed with the cursor positioned one space to the right, ready for you to type.
New line numbers can even be entered in the middle of an existing program. The only danger is if the new starting line number is the same as an existing line number. If this happens, the existing line number will be erased. However, when BASIC Commander detects this, two beeps will sound and the autonumbering mode is exited. This prevents accidental erasing of an existing line number.
The renumbering programs is just as simple to call. Press [SELECT] and you will be prompted to enter "INCREMENT AND START" values. Again, the default values are 10,10. Once the line number values are entered, press [RETURN], and it's done; 500 lines are renumbered in 3 seconds. Your program is renumbered, including all line reference statements like GOTO and GOSUB. Any indirect line references like GOTO A or GOSUB 4*A are not renumbered, but the line numbers on which they occur are listed on the screen so that you can easily edit them.
The block delete program is called by pressing [OPTION]. You will be prompted to enter "START AND END" values. After entering the values, press [RETURN] and all the line numbers within and including the starting and ending values are deleted. Both the renumbering and block delete modes can be exited by pressing the [BREAK] key.
As mentioned earlier, there are seven programmed keys. These keys, in conjunction with the CTRLkey, perform frequently used functions. The functions are Save, Enter, List, ?#6, Load, Run and a listing of all variables you have used in your BASIC program. The respective keys used are S, E, O, P, L, G, and V. To enter the desired command, in either immediate (no line number) or deferred (with line number) mode, simply press the CTRL-key and the desired programmed key simultaneously, enter your filename, then press [RETURN]. The command will be entered as if you typed the entire line.
The next set of keys consists of three that are programmable by the user. First press the CTRL-key and Q key together. The prompt "SELECT KEY (A,B OR C)" will be displayed. Choose any one of the keys and press [RETURN]. You will then be requested to enter any command or statement desired, to a maximum of 36 characters. For longer statements (maximum of 108 characters). the three keys can be strung together.
The last set of keys is used to call six DOS functions without leaving the BASIC program, using the same procedure as is used with the other programmed keys. The six functions are Directory, Lock, Unlock, Delete, Rename, and Format. The respective keys used are D, K, U, X, R and F. All functions work as if DOS DUP.SYS was being used. This is needed, because BASIC Commander will be erased from memory if DOS is ever accessed.
In case you want to use the graphics character instead of the programmed function of a key, you can toggle back and forth from the programmed mode to nonprogrammed mode by pressing CTRL-0 (zero).
If you ever need help, type RUN"D: HELP" and press [RETURN]. MMG Micro Software provides excellent documentation, and a small selfadhering label with all options printed on it. BASIC Commander is covered by warranty and enhancements will be made available.
10364 Rockingham Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95827
Reviewed by David Duberman
Video games now rank as one of the most popular forms of entertainment, and for several reasons. Most people would agree that their ability to remove you from reality is not the least common of them. A game's success in the marketplace can often be determined by how well it helps you to escape from this world and transport you into another reality.
Wayout is such a game and it puts you into another world better than any other video game I have seen. Published by Sirius Software, the setting for this other reality is a series of mazes. At the game's outset you can choose from any of 26 different mazes with names like Towers, Flowers and Worms. You travel through the chosen maze at eye-level (the walls are right in front of you) and you can see your progress in an inner square centered on the screen. Above the square are two compasses that indicate your forward motion and below that is a map that shows where you are within the maze.
The graphics that appear before you as you move through the maze are more life-like and dramatic than I have ever seen. What I really want to say is -WOW! The 3-D animation and the quick response of the display to your joystick movements make this game the last word in alternate-reality simulation. Lots of games try to accomplish this, but Sirius has created one here that surpasses others in reaching that goal. I found that it took me about ten minutes to get a feel for moving about in the maze.
In each maze, the object is to find the exit-the way out. Each maze is extremely long and convoluted, so this is no easy task. Your progress is constantly hampered by a mischievous creature known as the Cleptangle. It is a playful but annoying entity that lurks about trying to steal your compass and mapmaker. If it catches up with you and takes either or both, you may still move about the maze, but your direction is no longer guided. You can detect the Cleptangle's presence when you hear a low, rippling tone and if you act fast you can evade it or track it down. Usually you will just want to avoid it, but if it has already stolen your map or compass you will want to get them back.
Wayout has two features that allow you to save the game for later. In the first you may transfer the game to disk at any point. You may also press [SHIFT] and any number key from 1 to 6 to save your progress at any given point.
This game is one that many software designers have dreamed of writing, so kudos to Paul Edelstein for this stateof-the-art achievement. Wayout is an instant classic, and a game that no ATARI owner should be without. Even if you don't play it (unthinkable!), it makes a stunning graphics demo.
456S Cherryvale Ave.
Soquel, CA 95073
Reviewed by David and Sandy Small
Maybe you have just bought your ATARI, or perhaps you've had it for a while, but something strange happens to you on your way to becoming a 9th Class Star Raiders Super Commander. Suddenly you realize that you actually want to learn what makes this machine tick.
So, you settle down to learn about the ATARI. The BASIC Reference Manual is, we agree, hopeless; the Assembler / Editor Manual, ditto. How about De Re Atari? It's a great book, but a little technical; and the OS / Hardware manuals, are completely incomprehensible.
You will be tempted to throw up your hands and go back to playing Shamus. I should know; I dedicated more than a year to finding out about this machine, and it was good to find someone who could really help. His name is Robin Sherer, founder and -president of Educational Software, formerly Santa Cruz Educational Software.
Robin wrote a series of programs, the Tricky Tutorials, complete with a number of short demonstrations and examples, on various subjects. At last count, they were:
1. Display Lists.
2. Horizontal / Vertical Scrolling.
3. Page Flipping.
4. Basics of Animation.
5. Player/Missile Graphics.
6. Sound and Music.
7. Disk Drive Utilities.
8. Character Graphics.
If you're a computer snob, you're going to hate this stuff. It is written in an easygoing, plain fun style, definitely not dry and boring! Robin is a friendly person, and he wants to teach, not feed his ego. Still, he knows what he's talking about. He doesn't try to convert you to hexadecimal or assembly language; he shows you what the machine is about in BASIC (no small feat).
Robin's code is not perfect, by any means, and there are a few flaws in the booklets too. But overall the Tutorials are accurate and provide much-needed practice using the ATARI's special capabilities.
Looking at someone else's code is one of the best ways to improve a programmer. Robin's code is all open- not copy-protected-go-ahead-andplay-with-it good stuff. He stays with the novice, and tries to pass on valuable techniques. If you need some examples of locating a P / M bitmap on a page boundary, Robin's code will show you the ins and outs.
Some of the Tutorials were written by Jerry White, who has written an amazing amount of stuff for the ATARI. Adding Jerry to his group of programmer / writers gives Robin even more capabilities and promises more tutorials for the future.
The Tutorials come in an attractively-packaged illustrated booklet, with easily readable text. The sample programs come on either disk or tape, and may be loaded and run directly.
If you're used to paying $39.95 for games, then $19.95 each for Tutorials 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 will please you. The others are $29.95. They are all very much worth it, and if you're not happy, you'll get a refund. All six Tutorials, purchased together, come in a very nice binder for the price of $99.95. This package will provide quite a bit of help for you.
Not to be overlooked is Educational Software's Master Memory Map. This is a handy list of just about every ATARI memory location you ever wanted. l have this map pinned up on the wall as a quick reference guide. It is very helpful, and a steal at $6.95.
One other point about the quality of these products; this company has been in business for some time. As other software houses have learned, if you don't turn out a quality product, you don't get repeat customers. (Remember Crystalware?) Robin has plenty of repeats, and I've never heard a complaint about his products-just good comments.
The Tricky Tutorials are good products, fun to learn with, and valuable aids in learning about the ATARI. I'd recommend them to anyone making the first big steps into learning about the machine. Atari, Inc. certainly thinks so; it's one of Robin's biggest customers.
P.O. Box 3435
Longwood, FL 32750
(800) 372-7172, orders only
(305) 863-6917, business
Reviewed by Dave Mentley
Diskey is a comprehensive collection of routines neatly tied together to allow you to unlock your drive for diagnostic, recovery or whatever reasons you may have. Many of the functions are available on other disk utility packages or through users' groups libraries of public domain software, but a few of the key routines are unique to Diskey (Erase Disk without reformatting and Special File Copy without any directory entry, for example.) Diskey is written in BASIC with many Assembly routines which give it an edge over other utilities as far as speed goes.
My philosophy on packaged software is that if the program is not designed so that the documentation is intuitively obvious, then the program is not for me. In other words, like most of you, I don't read instructions. If you do not read the excellent booklet (61 pages) supplied with Diskey not only will you be missing out on a lot of valuable information, but you won't be able to do anything at all with this program.
What can you do with Diskey? Generally, you will be able to read any readable sector on a disk, modify sectors to your specifications, modify directory entries and trace and repair files. Files with major damage (which happens when you lay your floppy-disk on your 100 watt speaker magnet or drop a gob of cream cheese on the media surface) cannot be repaired. Minor dmage (such as a scratch or laser hole which only damages one or two sectors) can be readily repaired with practice. Old, inexpensive disks may lose integrity as the magnetic domains relax and become difficult to read (this may take years). Diskey can be used to read and reread the weak sectors until an intact replica is made and the file and be reconstructed on another good disk. My directories tend to get scrambled after many deletions and saves to the same disk. Diskey can be used to patch the directory enough to safely move your good files to a new disk.
The tools available in Diskey (I counted 57) can be grouped into 8 types: Read routines, Zap (modify and write), Informational, Search, Error Discovery, Copy, Repair and Support. While there are too many to relate here, I will try to cover a few of the more remarkable tools.
Briefly, you can: build a disk map with detailed diagnostics (empty sectors along with discontinuous, bad, ending, etc.), search for a string of up to 20 bytes on the disk, find the code that will load into a specific memory address in a binary load file, rebuild the VTOC, check for RPM of drive, trace a file and follow linking and referrals from directory, copy a file with a dead directory using only the file number, select an Exclusive OR sector map print mask (got that?) and dump the screen to printer at any time. Hitting the "X" key will abort most routines while in progress and "P" will dump to the printer.
There really is nothing you could add to Diskey to improve it. (That's what they said about the 4K RAM chip, too.) It is written for the near beglnner and will make you into an intermediate user with steady application.
P.O. Box 3435
Longwood, FL 32750
$24.95 24K Diskette, 16K Cassette
Reviewed by David Plotkin
BASIC Routines for the ATARI, from Adventure International, is a collection of utility programs in Atari BASIC written by the prolific Jerry White. Many of the routines have been published before, some are even in usergroup libraries. Nevertheless, the combination of informative booklet and disk (or cassette) make for a wellrounded package.
BASIC Routines is not meant to be a tutorial. While it is possible to learn a great deal from studying the listings and from the clear, concise explanations, some knowledge of BASIC is assumed. This software is aimed at the intermediate user-the bulk of us who aren't really beginners, but haven't reached the Assembly Language level yet. However, it is possible to use most of these routines even without understanding how they work. If you need a string sort, for example, you can use the one provided.
The routines range from simple to complex. You start with such things as turning off sound, reading the joysticks and paddles, material really suitable for beginners. You quickly progress to a masterful Player-Missile Graphics demo packed with useful information (including some Assembly subroutines for animating shapes). The package finishes up with some very useful utilities, tips on program speed and conserving memory, and a list of useful memory locations and how to use them. The utilities include such general-purpose tools as disk utilities (formatting, unlocking a file, etc.), Binary to Decimal conversion, and Basic Line Delete.
The manual encourages the user to experiment with the programs, and the documentation is more thanadequate for that, explaining what each section of code does. Jerry uses the "named GOSUB" capability of the ATARI to good advantage. You can GOSUB DING where DING was defined earlier in the program. One minor problem with the documentation is the quality of the printing-the listings are hard to read. Of course, you can call up the particular program and read the listing from the computer, but it would be helpful if the print quality were better.
BASIC Routines gets especially high marks for PMDEMO and MODE123 (the custom display list). Both of these programs are fairly long and very useful. MODE123 includes enough background on display lists so that, with some experimentation, you should be able to customize your own displays. The greater-than-average amount of documentation is appropriate, since modifying display lists is one of the more difficult aspects of programming the ATARI.
Finally, the Sound demo includes a large number of sounds which can be included in your own program, and there is information on how to generate those ultra-low base notes.
Overall, BASIC Routines for the ATARI is a good value. The combination of good documentation, printed listings and useful utilities are a worthwhile investment. Jerry White encourages you to experiment and dig into the listings. Take it from a guy who did it exactly this way, you will be constantly learning new things and your efforts will be richly rewarded.
6660 Reseda Blvd., Suite 105
Reviewed by Marty O'Donnell
Jeepers Creepers is the most original variation on the video maze game that I have yet seen. The mazes in Jeepers Creepers are actually interconnected pathways that divide the playfield into many rectangles, as streets separate city blocks.
When the game begins, all the pathways in the maze are orange. As your player, the bug, moves along, it changes the color of the pathway to yellow. When all four sides of a rectangle are colored yellow, the players freeze momentarily while the interior of the rectangle turns blue. You are awarded points for each blue rectangle you make, according to the size of the rectangle.
As you move around the maze, three wasps will appear and try to sting you. If stung, you will lose one of your five lives. Some of the rectangles in each maze contain the image of a beetle. When you complete the pathway around one of these rectangles, a beetle will appear to seek out and eat one of the wasps. Each maze has randomlyplaced super beetles which can speed up briefly and eat many wasps (shades of PAC-MAN).
There are also rectangles labeled "jump" which allow you to escape wasps by jumping instantaneously to a random point elsewhere in the maze. You are awarded one jump for each of these rectangles you complete, and jumps can be used at any time during the game by pressing the joystick button.
The playfield is done in one of the ATARI's medium resolution graphics modes (Antic modes 13/OS mode 7). Below the maze, a text display indicates the current score, high score, jumps remaining, lives remaining and "coast" mode. If you choose to coast, the bug will move in the direction the joystick was last pointed. If the coast mode is off, the bug stops when the joystick is in the neutral position.
My complaints about Jeepers are minor. I would like multi-colored players and a save-high-score feature. Jeepers Creepers lives up to its publisher's name-it is quality software and I recommend it, especially to arcaders and maze-game fans.
Big Five Software
P.O. Box 9078-185
Van Nuys, CA 91409
Reviewed by Deborah Burns
"Bounty Bob" in Miner 2049er looks like a typical 1849 gold-rush prospector, but his obstacles in this game are much more futuristic. Deadly mutant organisms and radioactive waste plague his progress through the mine shafts instead of angry Indians or claim jumpers. Like the popular arcade game Donkey Kong, the object of this game is for the player to travel to the top of a ladder (in this case, mine shaft) and score points along the way.
The colorful screen displays ten different zones in which the scene of the mine shaft changes. Each new zone is increasingly difficult. In Zone 2, the slides cause you to slip just as you are proceeding up the shaft. In Zones 4 and 5, you must jump from one lillipad to another, but if you land somewhere in between you are wiped out.
In Zone 9, the obstances are much more complex, and if you fall you are destroyed by the pulverizers.
In every zone you must avoid contact with the mutants that guard each station within the mine shaft. These mutants are usually fatal, but they can be rendered harmless. As you climb the shaft and score points by gathering tools along the way, the mutants turn green and edible and are no longer dangerous.
Miner 2049er is a challenging and complicated game, and much more difficult than it first appears. The manual clearly explains all the levels and objects of the game and how the various strategies can be executed. You may freeze your play momentarily or begin a new game at any time. A cannon may be fired by pressing the spacebar and in some zones you may "beam up" to another level.
Miner 2049er begins with a demonstration screen where "Bounty Bob" appears, accompanied by the popular gold-rush tune "Clementine". This game transports the '49er from the Wild West of the 1800's to the 21st century world of mutants and lasers.
HOME FILING MANAGER
P.O. Box 427
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
$49.95 16K Diskette
Reviewed by Chris Chabris
The Home Filing Manager is a new program from Atari that performs all of the standard database functions in a much more approachable manner than most of the complex systems on the market today. Each screen shows a picture of an ordinary index card with one red and seventeen blue lines. You simply type the card exactly as you want it to look. Inverse video and graphics characters may not be used, but full screen-editing capabilities are available.
When booted, this pure machinelanguage program displays a welldrawn picture of a file box under the title block, and prompts the user to insert a data diskette. Each diskette contains one file of 115 to 700 cards. After booting, the program diskette is no longer needed during the session. Three menus are used:
1. Diskette Menu-used to prepare (format) or switch data diskettes. Each data diskette is allowed a name of up to 18 uppercase characters.
2. Main Menu - lists the major options available, such as flipping through cards, searching, and quitting.
3. Display Menu-a line of choices shown above the card display, showing commands related to printing, editing, erasing, and writing cards.
Selection of menu optons is simple: press [SELECT] until the desired option is highlighted in inverse video. Then press [START] to begin that selection. Audio cues enhance the selection process.
Searching capabilities are not as comprehensive as those of larger systems, but I have found them adequate for all of my needs. One may "fetch" a card according to its title (defined as anything typed on the card's red line); or search the entire data diskette for all cards containing a specific phrase anywhere on the card, including in the title.
The documentation, provided in a 28-page booklet liberally sprinkled with realistic screen diagrams, includes a tutorial as well as a flowchart of program operation. After studying it for about twenty minutes, I had virtually no more questions about the program's use. No reference card is included, as the program is so easy to learn.
In summary, it must be stated that large database systems will have more functions and greater capacities, and probably will be less user-friendly than The Home Filing Manager. However, this program lives up to its name. It is truly a "home" filing manager.
The Home Filing Manager will be offered soon as part of the new Home Manager Kit, which will include the Personal Financial Management System program.
1302 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 963-3487 $31.95 16K Diskette and Cassette
Reviewed by Marc R. Benioff
Baja California is a 1000-mile-long Mexican peninsula that has been for some years the site of grueling desert races for off-road vehicles called Baja buggies. Usually these buggies are beefed-up, stripped-down old Volkswagens. Now there is a new computer game from Gamestar named Baja Buggies that lets you pretend you are driving in this race.
Since you are the novice driver, you start last-in a field of 80 other cars. Your goal is to finish first, and that means you have to pass all the competition. You steer with the joystick and can brake by pushing the fire button.
When the race begins your car automatically spurts ahead at full speed and you pass a few other cars. The buggy bounds through a 3-D landscape of realistic and dangerous scenery. The track is narrow and collisions with other cars can only be avoided by using extreme care.
Your position improves as the game progresses-50th,49th,48th. Maybe you can catch up with the first three cars. A small "radar" display at the bottom of the screen shows your relative position. The game ends when the first car crosses the finish line. I have managed to place tenth in the race, but Gamestar claims it is possible to make it to second or third.
Baja Buggies is an excellent product. Compared to driving games of the past, this is a programming masterpiece. It has some similarities to "Turbo" by Sega, but it is not just a copy. It was created by Scott and Keith Orr, formerly of Arcade Plus, whose Ghost Hunter was a popular PACMAN look-alike. The Orrs left Arcade last June, and started Gamestar in October. This is their first product.
Bethel Island, CA 94511
$39.95 32K Diskette
Reviewed by Davey Saba
Tax Dodge is a clever computer game that looks and feels much like PACMAN. The main features of the game are the scrolling maze, through which a player figure travels in search of money and fringe benefits, and five tax agents that are constantly after your player.
The game revolves around your ability to collect cash and avoid being touched by the tax agents. Much like the board game Monopoly, you may achieve your goal by passing over certain sections and gaining certain credits. For example, if you go past the space that says "accountant," you get a tax shelter. You may gain or lose advantages however, some of which are deductions, court dates, tax havens, etc.
Tax Dodge comes with a small pamphlet which adequately describes the game and gives directions. The game is difficult to master and sometimes gets frustrating, much like filling out your tax form on April 14th! One problem with the game is that the player figure is more difficult to control compared to other arcade-type games. On the plus side, it does have a freeze action feature (press the space bar).
While most players will probably enjoy Tax Dodge, accountants and lawyers with computers would really go for it. Tax Dodge is an interesting and amusing game with some new twists. The game should have good staying power, and it is at least one legal way to beat the IRS.
The game is very realistic. As in real life, the more cash you earn, the more harrassment you get from the tax agents. In fact, there is even an IRS office in the center of the maze. Other features are the surprise audits and the mysteriously vanishing tax decutions.
Progress is judged by the amount of earnings you acquire in a year. A scoreboard at the bottom of the screen keeps track of the account and to advance to higher income levels you must produce more and more cash. The game also has a time-keeping feature, and if you are not finished by April 15th and back at home base, you are busted and the game ends.
2370 Ella Dr.
Flint, MI 48504
Reviewed by David Duberrnan
Menumakr is a program that writes programs. It can be used to create menus for programs you are wrinig or to write characters, screen by screen. This saves you the work of determining plot points and specifying their contents.
Suppose you lay out a screen of instructions for a program you are writing. Menumakr will scan your screen, identify the characters involved and their locations, and write the BASIC statements to recreate it in your program. Creating attractive screens will make your products more professional.
The file created by Menumakr can be saved to either cassette or diskette. The file will be BASIC statements that can be used to begin a program (a title or instruction menu, for example), or merged with an existing program. The screens are saved in List form.
The BASIC statements that printinformation all begin with a POSITION statement that you can manipulate by editing, if necessary. A "clear screen" character is automatically inserted at the beginning of each new screen of characters, and a routine checks for [RETURN] at the end of each screen. These features can be used or altered as you see fit.
Documentation with the product offers some ideas for still other uses. It could read and print "status" screens showing information updated from the last reading, or create multiple, independently-updated graphics displays for game programming.
Menumakr is limited to BASIC Graphics Mode 0, but seems to be a helpful and interesting utility none the less.